GREENWICH, Conn. -- In the mid 17th-century, a small group of people gathered to build a church in the New Land. On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in the First Congregational Church of Greenwich to celebrate its 350th anniversary.
Pat Mendelsohn, chairman of the 350th anniversary, said she was inspired by the first seven proprietors who created the church back in early Colonial times. In a relatively young country, the church is one of the oldest continuing institutions in the nation.
"It is amazing when you think about institutions, certainly in the United States, we don't go back that far," she said. But "we were here from the beginning."
The church dates its founding to May 1665, when the town and the church were chartered by the General Assembly in Hartford. The town officially celebrates its founding to 1640, when the first English settlers landed at Greenwich Point.
The Rev. Richard DenUyl Jr., who is only is eight months into his leadership of the church as senior pastor, offered a unique perspective on the anniversary.
"I think it's breathtaking," he said. "The fact that we were formed way before the U.S. was a country, you don't think about those kinds of things. It is just amazing."
The church has experienced triumphs and tribulations over the past three and a half centuries, but it has survived through the faith of its adherents, DenUyl said.
"It is amazing what has happened here over the years, from feast to famine, and it has still held together," he said. "There is a really wonderful core that runs through this congregation."
One of the members of the congregation is Barrie Richmond, who has been a around for more than 50 years.
"We are very aware of the history," she said, noting the current church building is the fourth meeting house in the 350 years. "It is very exciting."
Craig Symons, the third music director in 50 years, said the church supports a strong musical program.
"I think the congregation has invested a lot in the music program itself in financial means, but I think people have been drawn here because of that reason and it has just continued to grow over the years," Symons said.
Assistant Pastor Mark Montgomery praised the work of Mendelsohn and others in organizing the year's events.
"We are caring on the tradition of community, which is what really built the church. It is people caring about each other and looking out for each other, being in community and making the town together," he said.
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